Friday, May 20, 2011

Royal Bank of Scotland Going Down the Drain

RBS took over ABN Amro in India some time back. They were hoping that the merger with HSBC  India would be approved by the RBI, but that isn't happening any time soon.

Since March, NetBanking was disabled for making payments, and customers had to use their Debit Card instead (sometimes having 2%+ penalty).
Apparently, that option will be closed on 31st May, which means that RBS customers will NOT be able to do any electronic payments at all. There is an exception, of course, for customers with their credit cards. Which is not many people, since they pulled out of that business during the financial crisis.
The justification? Too much phishing.

As a security guy, I am a bit surprised... why not instead implement... ahem... effective security measures? Maybe they could just give a phone call to their HQ in the UK and ask them 'How are you guys doing it?'

Instead, someone somewhere said something like 'Meh, why spend money on protecting our customers? Lets just shut down the whole thing instead.'

This is funny in many ways... the RBI wants to limit how much foreign banks can do in India, in order to protect its own banking sector. Yet, we're seeing a foreign bank having worse offerings than many local banks.

After stopping issuing credit cards in 2009, stopping online transactions in 2011, I think we can predict RBS India to shut down its operations in 2013.


Magadheera is, in many ways, exactly what one would expect from a South Indian hero movie: it has a cheapo romance, two guys fighting over the same girl, random songs unrelated to the story (even one in Switzerland!), and an absolutely insane level of violence.

The idea is that, 400 years ago, the hero, the villain and the heroine all died tragically and their love could not be. So, they all reincarnate in this life to put an end of this 'unfinished business'.
The only hint the hero has about all this is that he will have sparks flying and flashbacks the moment he touches the heroine.

I could talk for a long time about this movie, but I'll just summarize my comments as follows: please turn brain off for ~3 hours. Why? There is a bunch of historical inconsistencies, a lot of deus ex machina moments, and actors that are both South Indians and North Indians in the same movie. You can tell that the focus on skin fairness is going a bit too far when that happens!

Lets try to have some positive: the fight scenes are epic, the images are stunning, and the bad guy is so evil that you can't help but be happy when he dies.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Ubuntu 11.04 'Just works'

The latest version of Ubuntu, Natty Narwhal, was released a few days back.

I installed it at home and I have to say that I finally had what I consider a user-friendly installation process that 'just works'. I'll explain the quotes... my lousy MacBook has this problem of just dying unexpectedly, so I haven't had the time to really test it enough to know if the webcam works out of the box.

If you used Linux before, you likely had to do a fair amount of tweaking after you installed, and I'm not talking about the fancy stuff that power users do. Things like installing Flash, MP3 support and the like  needed some decent know-how to get done (think medibuntu and RPM Fusion). So, it failled the 'just works' test.

The latest Ubuntu makes this a whole lot easier. One of the features is to download the 'extra' packages that I mentioned above, while running the installer. Of course, you need to be connected to the Internet for that, but that's not a big problem in the typical use case. So the result is that I had a system that was ready to be used without any tweaking. I just had to open up the Software Centre in order to add a few applications that my wife and I are using often that I can't expect the average user to want (Arista Transcoder? Xiphos?).
Of course, the MP3s are playing right out of the box, and I was able to start some Flash video.
And I didn't have to do any configuration for my printer to work too.

Also, did I mention that it comes by default with useful fonts that make the screen lookable at?

When installing on the Macbook, it automatically detected it and allowed me to brainlessly create a 'sharing' (FAT32) partition between the two OSes.

So, essentially, it was the first painless Linux install in my life (and I'm a power user). I hope that this ease of installation will encourage more people to make the switch and have a (more) liberated life.

Of course, I'm not expecting the most hardcore geeks to like it... VIM doesn't come pre-installed ;)